A win at Celtic Park tomorrow night will see Barça qualify for the last 16 of this season’s Champions League. Tito Vilanova has taken a twenty-man squad to Scotland for the game with Celtic with the absences of the injured Adriano and suspended Sergio Busquets, though there is a boost to the squad with the return to fitness of Gerard Piqué who is included in the squad for the first time since injuring his ankle against Spartak Moscow on September 19.
Whether Piqué starts or not, it seems we have been improving in defence despite the crazy half hour of 3-4-3 against Celta. I expect we will stick with four at the back tomorrow and we should start with Alba on the left, Mascherano with Piqué or Bartrá in the middle while Dani Alves seems likely to get the nod ahead of Martin Montoya for right back. Alex Song will come in for the suspended Busquets and then Vilanova will again have to choose between Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas for the other two midfield spots. I suspect that as in the first game with Celtic Fabregas will be the one starting on the bench. Up front Pedro and Villa seem likely to continue along with Papi Messi.
Celtic coach Neil Lennon is waiting on the fitness of five players, Giorgios Samaras, Gary Hooper, James Forrest, Emilio Izaguirre and Thomas Rogne before tomorrow’s clash, though given the importance of the game it seems likely that Samaras, Hooper and Izaguirre will all start as they did at Camp Nou. Jordi Alba’s last minute goal in Barça’s 2-1 win two weeks ago seems to have affected the Bhoys in the Scottish league as following the game in Barcelona Celtic crashed 0-2 at home to Kilmarnock. Since then they have beaten St Johnstone 5-0 and thrown a way a 0-2 lead at Dundee United to draw 2-2 last Saturday, giving Hibernean the chance to draw level on 21 points at the top of the league though Celtic still have a game in hand.
In the last few years Barça have played three times at Celtic Park. A 1-0 loss in the 2004 Uefa Cup was followed by a 1-3 win in the 2004/05 Champions League and then Leo Messi scored twice in a 2-3 Champions League victory in February 2008. Whatever the game is like tomorrow we can be sure of a splendid atmosphere at the game. There can be no better way to get in you the mood for a football match than to hear You’ll Never Walk Alone sung before a big game at Celtic Park.
Barça’s 20-man squad list: Valdés, Pinto, Oier, Alves, Montoya, Bartrá, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba, Song, Dos Santos, Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas, Sergi Roberto, Pedro, Messi, Tello, Villa, Alexis.
Possible starting XIs:
Celtic: Forster; Lustig, Wilson, Ambrose, Izaguirre; Brown, Wanyama, Ledley, Mulgrew; Hooper, Samaras.
Barça: Valdés; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba; Xavi, Song, Iniesta; Pedro, Messi, Villa.
Barçacentral prediction: Celtic 0 Barça 2